UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A screening of the independent film “Plastic Paradise” will be held at 7 p.m. on April 19 in the Flex Theatre of the HUB-Robeson Center at University Park. The event is free and open to the public.
“Plastic Paradise” is a critically acclaimed, feature-length documentary that takes viewers on a journey to the North Pacific Ocean to examine the mysterious Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is the final installment of the film series for Plastic Entanglements, an exhibition coordinated by the Palmer Art Museum that explores humanity’s relationship with plastic.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the final resting place for thousands of tons of ocean plastic, negatively impacting the ecosystem in its wake. Throughout the film, journalist Angela Sun investigates the effects of rapid plastic consumption, and how the problem may be more dangerous than originally thought.
“The current rate of global plastics production exceeds 320 million tons per year,” said Denice Wardrop, research professor of geography and ecology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “That equals the weight of all humanity on earth; we literally reproduce ourselves in plastic every year.”
According to the film’s website, less than 5 percent of plastic manufactured in the world is actually recycled. Therefore, a large majority of the plastic that is not recycled enters the environment, totaling nearly 80 million tons a year.
“That’s a lot of foreign material to manage,” said Wardrop. “Plastic debris has been detected in air, oceans, soils, sediments and surface waters worldwide. It’s as if wherever we look, we find some.”
Although the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a visual representation of large plastic debris in the oceans, smaller microplastics — 5 millimeters or less in size — account for up to 92 percent of the plastic pollution in the ocean.
“While there are dangers to large plastic debris, microplastics pose an additional set of problems [for the food chain],” Wardrop said. “For example, a small fish won’t make the mistake of eating a plastic bag, but it will eat a tiny piece of plastic that looks like a zooplankton.”
As a result, “Plastic Paradise” confirmed, every single deceased albatross chick on Midway Atoll dies with identifiable plastic objects in the remains. The film asks: Is this indicative of the future of humankind?
The event is co-sponsored by the Sustainability Institute, University Libraries and the Palmer Museum of Art.